Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

The Panjway 16

15 March 2012

The New York Daily News asked for an op-ed on the mass murder in Afghanistan.  I invested several hours writing and they took it as is. As per normal, they changed the title.  Practically every publication does this to suit their specific readership, and that’s fine.  But on my website we can stick with the original title,

“The Panjway 16.”

image-1000Are some in the American forces buckling under the pressure of war?

The mass murder in Afghanistan was predictable. Twice in the past three weeks, I published that it was coming. Why was I able to write this with sad confidence? I’ve spent more time with combat troops in these wars than any other writer: about four years in total in country, and three with combat troops.

About 200 coalition members have been killed or wounded from insider attacks. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is tantamount to being Taliban and has not bothered to apologize. Instead, Karzai whips up anti-U.S. fervor at every opportunity. Twice, Karzai has threatened to leave politics and join the Taliban.

Read more: The Panjway 16


Boomslangphoto-6-1000Austin Prince, about 12 years, with cobra

12 March 2012

Under my dispatch from Bangladesh: Tigers, Crocodiles, Korans and Superstitions was this comment:


We have friends who are missionaries in the Congo. So far this year, they've killed 72 Cobras in their home. The wife told me; "It's beginning to get a little unnerving."

James F. McClellan

And so I called Mr. McClellan’s friends, Brandt and Pamela Prince down in Congo.  Actually, they are not in Congo but the DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a huge country in Central Africa.  DRC is about the size of the US east of the Mississippi.

Read more: Curses

Purple Heart

image001-1000PFC Leah Bartlett awarded Purple Heart

09 March 2012

Reaction to the recent Koran burnings led to dozens of killings.  Some of the attacks were obviously related to the burnings, while others may have been normal background noise of war.  Whatever the specific motivations, bombs still explode hard, and bullets still fly fast.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a blast in Nangarhar Province:

Read more: Purple Heart

Senator Levin on MEDEVAC

07 March 2012

Senator Carl Levin has been sending a form letter to his constituents.  Key parts of the letter seem to be have been written by the Army.  At minimum, Senator Levin’s responses are a rewrite of Army releases.   His statement perpetuates numerous myths and outright falsehoods.  Carl Levin is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Oversight is his duty.  If Senator Levin independently researched the Army statements, he would know that they contain falsehoods.

The letter [along with my comments in brackets]:

Dear [Deleted]:
Thank you for contacting me about the U.S. Army’s medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) policy.  I appreciate hearing your views on this matter.
Following the September 18, 2011, death of Army Specialist Chazray Clark in Afghanistan, concerns were raised about the Army’s MEDEVAC helicopter policy.  The specific circumstances of Specialist Clark’s death are the subject of an ongoing investigation.  For force protection reasons, all helicopters in Afghanistan fly in pairs, and the responsible in-theater commander makes the decision to use an armed escort for the MEDEVAC helicopter based on an appropriate tactical and risk assessment of each situation.

Read more: Senator Levin on MEDEVAC

MEDEVAC Momentum: Senate Armed Services Committee to Raise the Issue

01 March 2012

The MEDEVAC issue continues with increasing seriousness.  Numerous Generals, the Secretary of the Army, and the Secretary of Defense (through General Dempsey, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs) have all weighed into the fight.  Seventeen members of Congress have joined, and more expressed interest in the past 48 hours in correspondence to me.  I’ve just spent several hours personally answering many correspondences from offices of Members of Congress.

Two Senators, McCain and Manchin (both members of SASC) are stepping into the ring.  Major media from CBS to FOX to AP and many others have done major pieces and more attention is on the way.

Rick Clay emails:

“I have some good news. I spoke to Senator Manchin and Senator McCain today. They are going to bring our issue up in an Armed Services Committee hearing March 5th during the Army Posturing Hearing and request a follow-up during the Afghanistan Hearing on March 25th. They are going to send me the link so we can watch the hearing.”


Sisters at War

29 February 2012

This is a small tribute to our women in harm’s way.

We constantly argue about whether or not women should be allowed in combat.  Reality is that they have been in combat for longer than anyone reading this has been alive, and they were in combat before any of our great grandmothers were born.

I’ve personally seen women in infantry combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That includes British and American.  Often they are in severe firefights.  They do all sorts of jobs, such as medics, intelligence, public affairs (that’s right), “female engagement teams,” civil affairs, pilots, or sometimes they go on missions just to search women.  Bottom line is that they end up encountering a lot of bombs and firefights.

It’s saddening for this American to see women so often not appreciated for what they do.  Granted, there is not a huge number of women who do these things, but those who do have my respect and admiration.

Subsequent the recent Koran burning, most Afghans did nothing, but many lost their minds as some are inclined to do.  There was much violence.  Several dozen people have been killed so far.  On Monday, the Taliban attributed a substantial car bomb at FOB Fenty in Jalalabad to the Koran burning.  Nine were killed and about a dozen of ours were wounded.  (No US were killed in that attack to my knowledge.)

One of our wounded Soldiers was one of our Sisters at war.  Her father told me via email:

“Ok.  Just talked to her Mom. She's been evac'd to Bagram to the CSH [Combat Support Hospital].  She was in the turret of the MRAP when a black SUV came popped out of traffic and went barreling toward the gate.  Before anyone could do anything, it detonated.  She was blown backward into the rear of the turret and injured her back as well as having both eardrums blown out. Another kid, just arrived, was with her.  He took some fragments but will be OK.  Said she woke up on the ground and the gate was gone.  Apparently they secured it quickly enough that there was no further drama.

“Her Mom said she sounded as good as can be expected. She'll be there a couple of weeks then back to her unit to redeploy.”

And with that I will close with a big Thank You, and with respect and admiration for all of our warriors who serve honorably.  Today is a special thanks to women, but every day I say a “Thank You” to all of them.

Tigers, Crocodiles, Korans and Superstitions

20120208- 10D8189cc-1000-2Tiger eyes of man with fresh scars

“The Sundarbans lies in the massive delta between India and Bangladesh. This is one of the most beautiful but most dangerous places in the world, a place of tigers and crocodiles and dangerous seas and canals. Mamata is just one of about 3,000 ‘tiger widows’ in the Sundarbans.”

28 February 2012

When a man says, “It’s a jungle out there,” he means, “It’s the Sundarbans.”  Among the many wild and unforgiving places in the approximately 65 countries I’ve traveled, most are fairly safe when approached with good judgment and aforethought. The Sundarbans is not one of those places.  Few jungles are this dangerous.

The natives here rub shoulders with mortality on a daily basis.  And so before venturing into the labyrinth waterways, one should acquire a guide, which in my case was a government employee with a powerful FN-FAL rifle to ward off man and beast.  Competent, local guides are always your best insurance, and if I had a choice of any rifle in the world to bring here, the FN-FAL would be high on the list.  And so those boxes were checked.

Within about a week previous my arrival, eight people had been killed and more than a dozen wounded in personal combat with tigers.  Nobody knows why the tigers kill so many people here.  None of the eight people recently killed were eaten.  The tigers often devour their prey, but sometimes they just murder, and of course there is always a market for tiger parts.  It’s a bloody mess.

Read more: Tigers, Crocodiles, Korans and Superstitions

Our Weak Government Must Stop Apologizing for Criminal Behavior of Others

27 February 2012

The recent Koran-burning in Afghanistan has again inspired lunacy and murder.  And while the US civilian and military leadership burdened by their oleaginous apologies tumbles down a moral stairwell, Afghan security forces continue to murder American and Coalition troops.  Insider violence persists at an increasing rate.  Approximately 200 Coalition members have been killed or wounded in nearly fifty documented “green on blue” attacks.

Noticeably absent from the airwaves is a definitive apology from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a vow to fight this treachery committed by his troops.  Instead, we are likely to hear Karzai whining about night raids that his own troops help conduct every night.

We should immediately cut off all aid to Afghanistan until we hear a public apology from Karzai, and a denouncement from Karzai of Coalition murders by Afghan troops.  We should end all unnecessarily joint operations, training, and support of Afghan forces until we have public assurances from Karzai that the Afghan government strongly condemns the increasing murders of Coalition members.  Armed Afghans should not be allowed onto US aircraft.  Our people do missions every night with armed Afghans on our helicopters.  It would be nothing to take down a CH-47 from the inside.

It is time that we redeploy our main battle force home and disentangle ourselves from AfPak.

White Birds in a Red War

25 February 2012

An Army Dustoff pilot studying his art ran across some interesting passages.  The book DUST OFF: ARMY AEROMEDICAL EVACUATION IN VIETNAM mentions machine guns, missiles, Geneva Conventions, and painting MEDEVAC helicopters white so that the enemy could identify them.

Excerpts begin from page 85 (highlights are mine):

The return to single-ship missions demanded a few unorthodox procedures. International custom and the Geneva Conventions, which the United States considered itself bound to observe, dictated that an ambulance not carry arms or ammunition and not engage in combat. But in Vietnam the frequent enemy fire at air ambulances marked with red crosses made this policy unrealistic. Early in the war the crews started taking along .45-caliber pistols, M14 rifles, and sometimes M79 grenade launchers. The ground crews installed extra armor plating on the backs and sides of the pilots' seats.

Read more: White Birds in a Red War

Army Dustoff Medics Unprepared

“After more than 9 years of conflict and more than 40 AAR’s recommending the evolution of MEDEVAC to current civilian standards, no institutional change has been made. Continuing the legacy model has resulted and continues to result in documented sub-optimal outcomes and increased deaths among patients transported by helicopter in the current conflict.”

Robert L. Mabry, FS, EMT-P
Lieutenant Colonel, MC
JTTS Medical Director, Enroute Care

23 February 2012

The United States Army has failed with extraordinary dexterity while executing the helicopter MEDEVAC plan in Afghanistan.  On the surface, the Army advertisement campaign sells a story that their performance is exemplary and unprecedented in the history of war.  The press machine churns out sound bites, which are picked up in major media without the barest pretense of auditing.  For instance, senior Army officers saying and committing to writing that the Army has achieved a 92% success rate on MEDEVAC.  The Army peddles this message, and yet nobody says, “Show me the money.  Where do you get these figures?”  There is growing evidence that the 92% figure is hollow and fraudulent.

For instance, in an internal memorandum, the issue of poor or nonexistent tracking is repeatedly hammered:

Read more: Army Dustoff Medics Unprepared

A Hypothetical Interview General Martin Dempsey:


18 February 2012

General Martin Dempsey is the highest-ranking member of the US military.  He directly advises the President.  Lieutenant General John Campbell is Chief of Army Operations.  A bigwig.  Both men have publicly supported keeping Red Crosses on MEDEVAC helicopters that come under direct fire in Afghanistan.

Removing the Red Crosses does not force us to arm the helicopters.  But why not take the common-sense step of removing the Red Crosses so as not to alert the enemy that the helicopters are unarmed?  Many people want to know the answer.

In response to growing public concerns, Campbell has been interviewed on CBS and FOX, while Dempsey has written directly to Congressman Todd Akin.  Both Dempsey and Campbell have underlined the fallacy that it’s a good idea to alert the enemy that our MEDEVAC helicopters are unarmed.

And so, this morning, I made an imaginary phone call to General Dempsey and we conducted this hypothetical discussion:

Read more: A Hypothetical Interview General Martin Dempsey:

66 is not 59

17 February 2012

The Army campaign around the MEDEVAC continues to unravel.  They’ve tried just about everything short of assassination and witchcraft to freeze the growing stampede.  In the beginning, they claimed that my accounts of the failed MEDEVAC were completely wrong.  And then I produced the inconvenient high definition video and audio.

Undeterred, the Army has continued with a pattern of repetitive deception, knowing that if they repeat something enough it becomes “true.”  For instance, media accounts continue to parrot that Chazray Clark made it to the hospital one minute under the “Golden Hour” standard.  They say he reached the hospital in 59 minutes.  My video shows that it took about 66 minutes.

Read more: 66 is not 59

Department of Army Monitoring MEDEVAC Articles

15 February 2012

The following message was issued behind closed doors by the Department of Army (DA).  It pertains to media coverage of the MEDEVAC debacle.  There is no foul in monitoring the articles, but the inside glimpse is interesting.


Howard Altman, Tampa Tribune, is doing a story about one local woman's interest in the MEDEVAC issue and how it got her connected with Michael Yon, also a Florida resident. MRD OIL Team provided context and quotes as available in current

RTQs. Referred questions on the reporter's questions on catastrophic injuries to MEDCOM.

---END DA email---

DA = Department of the Army
MRD = Media Relations Division
OIL Team = Operations, Intelligence, Logistics (a department in MRD)

Tippity Top General attempts to Deceive Congressman (in writing)

14 February 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day.  It isn’t Valentine’s for those who will get hit with bullets or bombs today.  And it will happen.  So let’s get down to business.

The top officer in the US Military is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Chairman is the principal military advisor to President Obama. 

Recently, Congressman Todd Akin from Missouri has taken up the cause of repairing the Army MEDEVAC failures.

Previously, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) provided Congressman Akin with a deceptive, error-filled letter whose content could have been written by Baghdad Bob for Ripley’s Believe it or Not!   You have to see it to believe it.

Congressman Akin continued to push, but he was stonewalled.  Mr. Akin was undeterred and responded by redoubling his efforts.  For example, he marshaled other concerned Members of Congress, and altogether 17 Members sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. 

The response by Mr. Akin and other Members of Congress is heartening.  This is how a democracy should work.  We citizens raised valid, important points.  It took some time to get their attention, but once we got beyond those hurdles, Members of Congress have taken on the cause by first searching for the truth.

Read more: Tippity Top General attempts to Deceive Congressman (in writing)

New Britches: Part II


13 February 2012

Our Soldiers’ pants have been falling apart.  In August 2011, I wrote about this from Afghanistan.  The news was picked up widely.  My dispatch shows photos of Soldiers with blown out trousers.

Combat is a fully engaging endeavor.  Many troops go without underwear to avoid rashes, and so when the crotches of their pants rip out, they are in the breeze.  Troops should not be distracted from killing Taliban while mosquitoes and briars poke and yank at privates’ privates.

Read more: New Britches: Part II

A Matter of Trust


11 February 2012

Going unarmed into combat is a bad idea.  Going unarmed while wearing a Red Cross to alert the enemy that you are defenseless is dumb.  A commander who forces his troops to do this without good cause is at best incompetent.

US Army commanders do this every day in Afghanistan.  No other US branch or service, nor the British, wear the Red Cross on helicopters in combat.  Even our own US Army special operations forces do not use the Red Crosses on their medical birds.

Meanwhile, the US Army, specifically including Lieutenant General John Campbell, has been busy misleading Members of Congress and millions of Americans by communicating that our Dustoff MEDEVAC helicopters are required to wear Red Crosses in combat.  Many people are saying that LTG Campbell lied on FOX news.  I cannot defend him.  It is true.  Campbell misled CBS, FOX, and millions of Americans.

Read more: A Matter of Trust

Contempt of and for Congress?

US Military Forges Ahead with Deadly Deceptions

Dhaka, Bangladesh
05 February 2012

The US military is toying with American lawmakers.

Based on two key documents submitted to individual Members of Congress and the House Armed Services Committee, by both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US Army, it’s clear that a concerted, organized attempt to deceive Congress is coming from DoD brass.  Repeated deceptions regarding MEDEVAC failures in Afghanistan continue to be perpetrated in writing by certain leadership elements within DoD.  Rebuttal to an egregious JCS letter is published here.

Subsequent the JCS missive to Congress, the Army also began circulating a statement to Senators and Representatives after CBS aired a story revealing some of the MEDEVAC shortcomings.

Read more: Contempt of and for Congress?

Crucifixion of Common Sense

03 February 2012

Nobody crucifies common sense like the US Army.  During my morning search for anything MEDEVAC related, several new stories emerged, including one with these illustrative quotes from a Soldier returning from Iraq:

“You have to land where you never had to land before,   surrounded by the enemy.”

In conventional warfare a vehicle or aircraft bearing a red cross is considered almost sacrosanct. Not so during the open, no holds barred atmosphere that permeated Iraq.

Read more: Crucifixion of Common Sense

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